Keeping HK at cutting edge of IT
Herman Lam joined Hong Kong Cyberport Management as chief executive in March this year and is responsible for leading and administering the company. He also plays a prominent part in promoting and implementing various public mission strategies. In this area, he has to set initiatives and devise comprehensive programmes to assist the development of Hong Kong as a hub for ICT (information and communication technology) innovation and commerce, while upgrading relevant skills and resources in the wider community.
Lam was previously general manager of Microsoft Hong Kong, where he gained a wealth of experience in strategy, business operations and management. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of North Texas and an MBA in information systems.
How did you originally get into the technology sector?
I took computer course at university because it was a pretty cool subject to study during the late 1980s. It turned out I was good at programming, but when I graduated, I was interested in doing something that combined IT with sales and marketing, allowing me to apply technology in the corporate world and in day-to-day situations. I still feel there is something special about working in IT; there is rapid change and it’s not predictable.
What makes your organisation different?
We are quite special because we are set up as a private company, but the Hong Kong government is our 100 per cent shareholder. We have to comply with government-style rules and regulations, but I have no problem with this because when I was working with Microsoft, we had to stick to a rigid code of corporate governance guidelines.
What do you see as the major challenges with Cyberport?
Of course, a priority is to make sure the company is financially sound. Recently, things have been running smoothly and profitably, so I’m very positive about this. After that, the major challenge for us is to stay at the cutting edge of technology and to be sensitive to developments in the local high-tech environment.
What kind of projects are you currently working on?
There are quite a few missions to keep us busy. Firstly, we need to improve the average level of ICT skills in Hong Kong. One way is by bringing in overseas experts and organising seminars and training for local IT companies and professionals. In addition, we will continue to support SMEs, which want to participate in industry exhibitions, by providing funding and advice for them. We also want to achieve digital inclusion in Hong Kong, so everyone has access to the benefits of technology. Today, we have 33 digital centres for underprivileged families and hope to extend that further.
Which qualities are vital to be an effective corporate leader?
It is a very broad topic but, firstly, a leader must be passionate about what he or she is doing. Otherwise, the people working with you won’t feel similarly inspired and committed to what they are doing. Of course, you must also master the required professional skills and develop an outstanding level of industry knowledge. And you must be ready to invest the necessary time, energy and creativity to excel in your job.
How do you unlock the creativity of a team of executives?
My own definition of a creative person is someone who can find his or her own solution for a problem, or can come up with an idea to maximise an opportunity. I expect colleagues to step outside their comfort zones and ask them to set themselves more aggressive and challenging goals each year. This is to encourage them to be more creative and innovative, in order to make the organisation bigger and better.
What do you see as the main trends in the IT sector?
The use of 3D video technology is definitely one of the most important. We supported 3D broadcasts of this year’s World Cup games in local cinemas and, at the moment, are planning for the introduction of 4K streaming video, which is a lot more realistic. Besides that, I expect wider use of artificially intelligent technology and semantic Web. Computers will continue to change the way we live our everyday lives and will keep providing new choices and experiences.
Nowadays, what skills are essential for young people to build a successful career?
They have to be creative and have a good attitude towards work. With the development of technology, computers can handle many of the routine tasks that are part of most jobs, meaning that individuals have to be innovative and adaptable if they want to stand out. They also have to be well prepared for their own roles and able to understand the bigger picture.
Man with a plan
- When running a project, Lam ensures comprehensive plans are in place and that colleagues can execute them
- Has learnt a lot about leadership from the book Executive by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan
- Discusses business problems and seeks advice from colleagues, clients and other people he respects and admires